Why Naturalism? Because This.

Yet another example of a Pagan in a leadership position using that position for sexual misconduct, citing woo-woo “spiritual” reasons involving disembodied entities and “magical bonds” as “explanations” for his abuse.

How far would such hokum fly in a naturalistic Pagan community?

Not.

At all.

Willingness to take someone’s word about supposed supernatural processes and invisible beings is a formula for being abused. Healthy skepticism would have tossed this creep out on his ear long ago, but the conventions of many Pagan communities which take at face value highly improbable assertions about the nature of reality create safe contexts within which abusers can operate.

Say what you like about naturalistic Paganism, one thing is clear: a naturalist thinker isn’t going to be lured or cajoled or strongarmed into being abused with “magical” explanations.

This happens too much in the Pagan community. A healthy dose of skepticism is the cure for the problem.

And here’s a rule of thumb: any time a “leader” or “teacher” of any kind suggests that to “advance” you need to do something sexual: RUN.

 

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What About Those Who Insist Their Gods Are Real? A Policy Statement.

Though I generally try to avoid engaging with them, there are those in the broader Pagan community who are quite adamant that their gods are real and that anyone who doesn’t think so isn’t a Pagan. Some of them feel the need to rail at people like Atheopagans and call for our expulsion from Pagan community. So I thought I would spell out my exact orientation to such folk, so my position is clear.

Primarily, my inclination is to ignore them. They’re wrong, but they’re entitled to their opinions. If their beliefs make them happy, great. Though given the sour and caustic tone of some of them, there is reason to doubt this is the case.

I don’t care that other Pagans believe in gods. They’re welcome to do so, in my book, even though I believe that is in the process of dying out.

When it comes to the bigotry factor, however—the suggestion that there is something wrong with us because of what we believe and practice, or that it’s “not a real religion”— I will stick up strongly for our rights both to what we do and believe and to belong in both Pagan and atheistic communities. My only reason for engagement with strident god-believers who refuse to live and let live is in insisting that mine is a religion as well, and I have a right both to call it one and to a place in community. I have never argued that they have no place there, and this is a fundamental difference in values between us: inclusivity vs. exclusivity on the basis of cosmology and/or praxis.

I do not feel the need to try to establish that at some level, we are all talking about the same thing using different labels. We aren’t. We have a fundamental cosmological disagreement. “Real” for purposes of my writing means “existing in some sense external to the mind”. The memory of my mother, therefore, is not “real”, while, when she was alive, my mother was real.

Rocks are real. Gods are not. So the evidence suggests, and so I believe.

Do ideas “exist” in some sense? Well, certainly. But certain ideas are not privileged with “reality” more than any others. Zeus has exactly the same amount of real existence as does Wilbur the Pig or Gandalf. They are memes, not things or persons.

There are those who disagree with these ideas and will be angered to read them. My suggestion for them is simple: go away. Read something else. I don’t write this blog for you; I write it for those of largely similar views, so that together, we can develop and explore our Atheopagan spirituality.

I hope this clarifies where I stand.

Real Magic

Reality. It’s filled with marvels!

It is not, however, filled with every marvel we can imagine. There are no dragons, nor unicorns. There are no pixies or fairies. And there is no “magic” in the sense of spellcasting, “charging” items with “power” or “energy”, hexes, curses, or otherwise affecting the course of events without material cause.

Just as there are no gods, there is no magic. If we soberly consider the evidence, the conclusion is inevitable.

Except…well, wait a minute.

When a ritual adds to your confidence and performance in a job interview, is that magic? When a ceremony breaks open longheld rage and transmutes it to grief and healing? What about when a wedding binds two people to one another before their communities and loved ones?

Are not these things “magical”, in the sense that they surprise and delight us with effects psychological and meaningful?

Well, certainly they are.

Atheopagans can do magic just as effectively as anyone else…which is to say, not at all effectively. Except insofar as our “spellwork” is intended to change our own attitudes, emotions, and behaviors.

But for those purposes, ritual is powerful technology for transforming the mind.

Be warned: don’t expect your supernaturalist friends to get this. For whatever reasons, they subscribe to belief in phenomena for which there is little to no scientific evidence. There’s no point in arguing, so don’t.

Ritual “spellcasting” in Atheopaganism can include many of the elements that come to mind when you think of such things:  the use of ritual tools, candle “magic”, sacred/”magical” symbols and sigils, etc. I find that my rituals of intention, which is what I call them, bring me into a powerfully Present trance state of calm, intent focus and concentration on the goal.

But these goals are very specifically about the changes in me that I am working to bring about. I don’t “do a spell to get a job”—that’s useless. I will do a ritual to align myself in all ways with an effective and successful job search. This means that the ritual begins the work of getting a job, rather than ending it. It means I am tasked to act by the ritual itself.

Atheopaganism is a path of effort and clarity. We don’t pretend that our religion will give us an afterlife, nor  powerful Entities with whom to ally, nor magical powers. Ours is life in this world, with its constraints, its challenges, its injustices…and its magnificence, its opportunity and its joy.

It is enough. The real kind of “magic” we can make is magical enough. The real powers and forces of the world are enough. The glorious stars, the deep-rooted trees, the shining faces of our community are more than enough.